Inspiration Message 9/20

By request, the Inspiration Reading from today’s service is reprinted below:

Practice Humility during these times of crisis to strengthen our Democracy

(Excerpt from an article in the USA Today by Emily Chamlee-Wright, President and CEO of the Institute for Humane Studies)

The most important thing you can learn in life is how little you really know for certain. Once you learn that,-once you embrace, Like Socrates, the fundamental fact of your ignorance,-the world becomes a more exciting place, chock full of possibility. Every person you encounter has the potential to offer insight you do not possess. He may have experiences you don’t have. Or she might change your mind about something.

Intellectual humility is more than a personal virtue. It’s what empowers people with different experiences and beliefs to value one another, engage in civil discourse, and learn from each other. The irony is that with each wave of new learning, humanity is tempted into thinking that we have all the answers. This is as true today as it was in Socrates’ day, as it was in the afterglow of the Age of Reason, and the technological and economic progress born of the Industrial Revolution.

With each new era, we seem to forget the fundamental lesson of intellectual humility. Left unchallenged, our sense of certainty gets us into all manner of mischief, from Holy Inquisition to centralized economic plans.
H.L Mencken wrote in 1956 “The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant. His culture is based on “I am not sure .”

And so, to begin a new chapter, we should make a new commitment to intellectual humility. Let’s foster good faith discourse-in which the goal is not to win a debate, but to have authentic learning conversations that leave all participants wiser for having engaged. The promise of such discourse isn’t that we’ll necessarily come to agree with each other, but that we’ll come to understand each other.

A posture of intellectual humility does not require that we abandon our intellectual, moral, political, and spiritual commitments. On the contrary, it is when we are most thoughtful , when the stakes are high and our convictions run deep, that we have the most to gain from sincere and open discourse. The challenge is to avoid the perils of arrogance by recalling the secular creed: by remembering that there is always much more to be learned.